HALTON firms fear the tolls could drive some companies out of business - but without tolls we could not have a new crossing.We have been talking to employers and workers who cross the bridge several times a day about the impact the charges could have on their livelihoods.
HALTON MP Derek Twigg has lobbied George Osborne for free tolls for residents after he dropped plans to toll a local road in Cambridgeshire.
He met The Chancellor with a cross-party group of MPs in January.
Mr Twigg said: “George Osborne decided not to toll the A14 in Cambridgeshire because it is a local road. The A533 is our local road. It is used by residents to go to work, the hospital, dentist, go shopping, get a train and visit family and friends across the river.
“There is no other road in the country that is untolled now and will be tolled in the future. He accepted we had a case and said he would look at it.
“My focus is on getting local people to be able to travel free all the time. I want the government to put extra money into this scheme. Halton Council is already offering a discount scheme for Halton residents.
“I do have some hope with George Osborne. Although it is taking a bit of time for a decision from the Chancellor, I would rather wait to get the good news.”
HALTON Chamber of Commerce and Enterprise which represents businesses across the borough is concerned about the effect the tolls.
Chief executive Paul Cain said: “Our businesses are concerned about the impact the tolls will have on their employees.
“Businesses which have a fleet of vehicles which cross the bridge a number of times a day are worried about the cost “We’d like to see government find a way of releasing additional funds or allow Halton Council to keep more of the money coming through the tolls to put back into benefitting local people.”
However, she is confident the £600 million Mersey Gateway will attract investment and economic regeneration.
She added: “This is a tremendous project which will provide jobs. The borough would suffer greatly without it.You can’t ignore the long term positive impact this bridge will have for Halton but we do have these issues to resolve.
“We want to make sure that residents are not disenfranchesed by the cost of the tolls.”
David Parr, chief executive of Halton Council, said: “At the public inquiry into Mersey Gateway, the inspector received evidence for and against tolling and came to the conclusion that the overall benefits of tolls on both bridges outweigh the disadvantages.
“Businesses will already be well aware of the problems associated with the Silver Jubilee bridge. The Mersey Gateway and the re-designed Silver Jubilee bridge will be an advantage to business.
“We are already seeing additional investment in the borough of businesses looking to take advantage of the benefits the Mersey Gateway bridge will bring.”
Steve Nicholson, chief executive of the Mersey Gateway Crossings Board, said: “Businesses will be major beneficiaries of the wider transport, economic and social benefits that the Mersey Gateway project will bring to Halton.
“Businesses will see the advantage of improved journey time, reliability and connectivity, along with business productivity and sustained growth in the Halton region.
“No new bridge would result in increased traffic congestion on the Silver Jubilee bridge, more delays and severe disruptions leading to increased idle time which can come at great cost to local businesses.”
For details of the discount tariffs, visit merseygateway.co.uk.